As previously posted, I am pregnant with my fourth child. While the majority of his time in my tummy has been focused on parenting babies one, two, and three, I am now less than a month from meeting this little boy. Being the fourth baby, we really don’t need anything. We have a swing. We have a high chair. Bottles, bibs, Bumbo. Check, check, check. We have a car seat, too… but it is seven years old.
I have always heard whispers of an expiration date on car seats but never paid too much attention. Maybe it’s just a manufacturing conspiracy for us to spend more money. Or maybe it only applies to certain car seats. Either way, knowing that I’m really going to want to take this baby home with me, I headed to Babies R Us and did some research on the question.
Answer: Yes. Yes, they really do expire.
When do car seats expire?
Answer: Between six and eight years. The longevity depends on the manufacturer as well as the specific seat. Look for an expiration date or a Do Not Use After date on your car seat. Most car seats can be registered through the manufacturer. Doing so, the manufacturer will notify you when the car seat has reached expiration. Manufacturers also recommend disposing of the car seat if it has been involved in a major crash.
Why do car seats expire?
Answer: Car seats are exposed to the elements, especially here in Iowa with our extreme differences in seasons. The plastics can degrade; parts can break, get lost, or be installed incorrectly; and technologies change. Older seats may not meet current government safety standards.
Can I get a fine if I have an old car seat?
Answer: The answer to this question is yes and no. You CAN get a fine if you do not have your child restrained correctly. For example, the law states that “All children must be rear facing up to one year of age and 20 pounds.” If your child is younger than one or less than 20 pounds and forward facing, you would receive a fine. Brandi with Blank Children’s Hospital Child Passenger Safety Network said there is a requirement that car seats be installed per manufacturers instructions. The expiration date would come into play here, but the law enforcement officer would have to know what to look for.
Why do car seats range in prices? Does that affect the safety and expiration?
Answer: Manufacturers use different types of plastics for padding. When I went to Babies R Us, I was shown the different placements and thickness of the padding used in the seats. Car seats also range in sizes and style, even among the same manufacturer. It is important to not just shop by price as you want to make sure the car seat will be the correct size for your car as well as meet the requirement of height and weight for your baby.
What do I do with my old car seat?
Answer: Destroy it! Cut the straps, cut the cover, remove or blackout the serial number, and write, “Trash, do not use.” Do not just put the expired car seat on the curb as someone else may pick it up and use it. I have not found any place willing to recycle or trade in old car seats here in Des Moines, so you’re best option is to trash it.
So no conspiracy. Looks like this is a legit safety precaution to take for our babies. At least, for me, now I can put something on a baby registry: a new car seat!
What did you do with your old car seat? Do you know of any other baby products with an expiration date?
Diane, the Baby Gear Department Supervisor at Babies R Us, was extremely knowledgable and helpful.